Drepung Monastery - Lhasa and around, Tibet
Introduction to Drepung Monastery:
Drepung Monastery, used to be one of the largest monasteries in world, is located at the foot of Mountain Gambo Utse, about 8 km. (4.97 mi.) west of central Lhasa. The word Drepung literally means as rice heap in Tibetan language as the white building in Drepung Monastery seems like a heap of rice from afar. Drepung Monastery is one of the great three Gelugpa Sect university monasteries of Tibet (the others are Ganden Monastery and Sera Monastery), holding an important position in the history of Tibetan Buddhism. If you are planning Tibet hiking tours, Drepung Monastery is definitely an attraction you should not miss.
Visit in Drepung Monastery:
The building complex of Drepung Monastery is organized to be centered on two magnificent white pagodas, and many natural caves were rebuilt to serve as the ashrams for monks. Ganden Palace, Main Assembly Hall, four tratsangs and kamcuns are the sights that should not to be missed while visiting in the monastery.
The Ganden Palace is located in the southwest corner of the monastery, it was built around the year of 1530 by the second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyaco and later became the dwelling place for the second, third, fourth and fifth Dalai Lamas. After the fifth Dalai Lama moved to the Potala Palace, it was used to serve as the meeting place for the local regime for both politics and religion.
The Main Assembly Hall (also spelled Coqen Hall or Tsogchen) is the principal structure in Drepung Monastery. The huge interior is very atmospheric, draped with thangkas and supported by over 180 colums, some of which are adorned with ancient armor. The second story of the hall houses collection of sutras including a set of Gangyur Tripitaka written in gold powder, and woodcarving sutras of the Qing Dynasty. Climbing to the third floor you will witness a sacred shrine which is worshiped a huge bronze statues of Qamba Buddha.
Same with other monasteries in Tibet, Drepung Monasteries also has four trasangs for its monks to study Buddhist Classic. The Loseling, Gomang, and Deyang tratsangs focus on the Esoteric Buddhism, while the Ngaba tratsang on the Exotoric Buddhism. At the northeast corner of the monastery, you will see a debating courtyard, if you're here in the afternoon and lucky enough, you will witness the monk-debating tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
History of Drepung Monastery:
Drepung Monastery is the largest among the great three Gelugpa Sect monasteries. It was originally founded in 1416 by a charismatic monk and disciple of Tsongkhapa called Jamyang Choje. Within just a year of construction, the monastery had attracted more than 2,000 monks.
In 1530, the second Dalai Lama established the Ganden Palace, and the monastery had become the residence to Dalai Lamas until the fifth moved to Potala. It was from here that the early Dalai Lamas exercised their political as well as religious control over central Tibet.